We all have our favorite tools of the trade. Having good and reliable cookware in your kitchen is a must nowadays, especially with how fast-paced life can be. Copper cookware has definitely found a way to win the hearts and minds of culinary enthusiasts. It’s of unquestionable quality, lightweight, and can last a lifetime if maintained properly. However, with questions about the safety of using it being raised in the past, one can’t help but stop and think whether it’s really safe or not.
To help you clear all doubts regarding the safety of using copper cookware, let’s shine some light on the characteristics of this cookware and how it affects your food, health, and life in general. With this information, you’ll easily make up your mind on whether to use one or not.
How Safe is Copper Cookware?
You may not think much about the effects of cookware and the material it’s comprised of when preparing a meal, but it does affect your diet. Normally, a human body needs minerals like copper, zink, iron to function properly. We get these minerals through food and supplements ( if needed), and in very small amounts through cookware.
So the reality is that no matter how durable or resistant the cookware is, the minerals from it will infuse with food that you’re cooking. The good news is that the amount of these minerals we get in our diet through cookware is negligible. The recommended amount of copper, for example, is around 900 micrograms. The danger lies when misusing this cookware and allowing leaching whether by scratching the surface with iron kitchenware or by exposing it to extremely high temperatures.
In other words, provided that you take good care of your cookware and avoid misusing it, nothing bad can happen while cooking. Leeching is an extreme case when the surface of the cookware gets damaged. Thus a large quantity ( larger than recommended) is released into our food. Avoid that, and you can use your copper cookware for an indefinite period without placing your or your family’s health at risk.
Also, some cookware ( of poorer quality) has low durability and will react on lower temperatures. It really comes down to choosing quality cookware to ensure nothing bad happens.
Things to Avoid When Using Copper Cookware
Induction stoves are incredibly easy to use, save time and energy, but most importantly are perfectly safe for use. You can’t burn your hand as the surface remains cool while only the base of the cookware is heated. Needless to say, this is one of many benefits when using an induction top.
Avoid Using Abrasive Cleaning Aid
Quality copper cookware has scratch-resistant properties and is, in general, hard to damage. The nonstick layer doesn’t peel off after a while, and unless you do it intentionally, you won’t be able to cause leaching. It can also remain shiny as the day you bought it, but it will need special care, cleaning methods, and cleaning aid. You can’t clean copper cookware with just about any sponge. Using the abrasive side of the sponge or abrasive cleaning aid, in general, will damage the outer layer no matter how good the cookware is. To avoid damaging your cookware, use soft sponges and a specific cleaning aid designed for copper cookware. You can find it in any general store or similar shop.
Leaving or Storing Acidic Food in Copper Cookware
Copper has great heat retention and heat conductivity; there’s no doubt about it. However, it is a sensitive mineral. It can react to high temperatures or when exposed to acidic food ( salsa, lemon juice, etc.) To avoid placing your health at risk, it’s important to remember one rule – don’t store acidic food in copper cookware. The reason for this is simple: the copper layer will start to dissolve after a while, which will result in leaching.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid cooking this type of food entirely. It takes some time for the acid to start dissolving copper from the cookware. What you can do is transfer the content from pot/pot that you’re using to another cooking vessel ( iron, stainless steel, ceramic) or food container.
Do Not Leave an Empty Cookware on a Hot Stove
This one really goes without saying as it’s a general rule that can be applied to every type of cookware. But being that this is a list of things to avoid when using copper cookware, it should be on this list. Every copper cookware has a limit on the temperature it can be exposed to. In most cases, it’s around 500 ° F. However; some premium models can withstand temperatures up to 800 or more ° F.
This really depends on the other alloys included in the construction of the cookware, type of lid it comes with, etc. The point is, that leaving an empty cooking vessel on a scorching hot burner can’t result in anything good. No matter how durable it is, after a while, it will start to affect its finish. In most cases, the outer layer will start to chip, although hot spots can also occur. In extreme cases, the cookware can deform when exposed to open flame or high heat. None of this is good or safe, so try to avoid misusing any cookware ( especially copper), and you’ll be just fine.
Using Iron or Metal Kitchen Utensils
Most modern copper cookware sets are scratch-resistant. Very few of them, mostly expensive ones, are scratch-proof. It’s important to know the difference. The scratch-proof cookware is, as the name suggests, completely impervious to scratches and damage from sharp objects. The other type is only resistant to an extent.
When using scratch-resistant copper cookware, it’s detrimental that you avoid using metal or iron kitchen utensils. It doesn’t really matter if you use it to stir, scrape, or cut food in the cooking vessel, the results will be the same. It may endure a couple of scratches, but ultimately the layer will give in, which will result in leaching. So to stay on the safe side, use silicone, wooden, or even plastic kitchen utensils to stir your food. Be sure to get top quality utensils to ensure they don’t melt or deform in any way.